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SoTL is Research.

SoTL research uses systematic inquiry to assess and share the impacts of teaching approaches designed to enhance student learning. SoTL research is education research built on evidence-based practices. Most SoTL is developed within the context of a specific academic discipline and the findings may be generalized and applied to other fields. Teachers in higher education are typically those performing this research and they share their findings at conferences and through journals.

Why do SoTL research at SVSU?

SVSU faculty are teachers and scholars who work to improve student learning in their classes. SoTL research can help you capture, formalize and share your best practices for broader impact. Conducting SoTL research helps our students and other educators, but it also helps individual faculty by integrating our identities as educators and scholars in our professional development. SoTL research makes an impactful statement in your Professional Practices Committee file for tenure and promotion consideration.

SoTL research is so impactful because teaching and learning are crucial aspects of both SVSU's mission:

“We transform lives through educational excellence and dynamic partnerships, unleashing possibilities for impact in our community and worldwide.”

and our vision:

“We will be renowned for our innovative teaching, experiential learning, and state-of-the-art facilities and be the first choice for those striving for personal and professional success.”

We exist to and will continue to strive for educational excellence through innovative teaching. The education of our students is enhanced through innovative teaching and it is through the systematic approach of SoTL research that our faculty can better develop innovative and effective practices for student learning. Thus, research can help us fulfill the core aspects of our mission and achieve part of our vision. When our students learn, we all succeed.

How is SoTL research done?

  1. Decide on a project by reflecting on your current practices. What seems to be working in your class(es)? What seems to be difficult for students to understand? Do students really like an activity? Is there an assignment on which students do poorly?
  2. Determine your research questions. Once you've identified a topic, determine what you want to know about that topic. For example, do students provide stronger evidence when evaluating a primary source following this in-class activity than watching an online video?
  3. Review the literature. It is likely that your activity, assignment, or approach to the classroom is unique in its context and details but there may be extant research on similar topics. There are teaching journals associated with many of our fields as well as more general teaching and learning journals. For example, see resources listed in:
  4. Think about outlets. Where will you share your research? There are many conferences and journals that specialize in SoTL. Wherever you choose, be sure to check out any requirements they may have and view some examples of posters, presentations, or articles for that outlet. This will increase the chances of having your project accepted.
  5. Design your study. This step has many components, each of which requires consultation with the literature and consideration of research ethics. Because one of the goals of SoTL research is to share your findings with other educators and involves human subjects, you will need approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at SVSU before you start your study. The IRB is here to ensure that our student participants are treated properly. The teaching fellows at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning can help you determine how to collect data and evaluate your data. SoTL projects can take many forms so the design you choose should fit your goals and your discipline.
  6. Prepare to Share. When you've finished your study, it is time to prepare your project for dissemination. This will involve sharing the context in which your research question was developed, the design of your study, the variables assessed, and the outcomes. However, because SoTL research is a form of professional development for educators, you should also share your reflections on what you've learned and how others could use findings in their own teaching.

How do I get started with SoTL research?

Chat with us! The faculty and staff of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning have resources and expertise to help with your SoTL project. We offer the Dow Professor Grant, to faculty to implement and evaluate a year-long teaching project. Our teaching fellows will be there to help you with each step of the SoTL research process.

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